The school continues to let me chaperone trips, which is nice.  I’m not a very good chaperone, but I do enjoy the hell out of these little trips.  I tend to ignore the handouts full of exercises/things to look for/questions to answer.  We tend not to follow maps or guides.  We tend to run when we aren’t supposed to (okay, THEY run.  I cannot imagine having the spare energy needed to run).

This time, the lower elementary went to Ft. McHenry in Baltimore.  I had Lily and three other girls in my group. They were…energetic.  I managed to point out, in the visitor’s center, an example of the rockets (of “the rockets red glare”) and a bomb (that apparently was not one of the ones “bursting in air”) and a shell fragment (that apparently was) before they zinged out the door and across the expanse of lawn.  I’m not, in general, one to rhapsodic about childhood, but one thing I always love about kids is how they just HAVE to run across a big stretch of grass.  It’s sad that most of us lose that desire to run for the sheer joy of going fast.  It’s irksome that they couldn’t all run in the same direction.  It was still early in the day, so I was still concerned that someone’s mom would be mad at me if I lost a kid, and I tried to keep them together.

They wanted to eat first, of course, so we went over to the picnic grounds on the other side of a huge statue of Orpheus.  Orpheus, of course, is nekkid but for his fig leaf which is…superglued on?  Why not at least a little strap on that thing?  He is also, as one mom muttered to me, “built like a brick shithouse” a phrase that has always perplexed.  This is as complimentary as we can be as a people?  He’s so sturdy that you could take a crap on him in a stiff wind and not worry that he’ll blow over?  Anyway, faced with the figleaf, the girls were quick to run around to the back of the statue and squeal “You can see his BUTT!”  And then ran ’round to the front again to determine that “if you look up from down here, you can kind of see under that leaf.  You can see his other thing.”  So yes, ballsack as big as a watermelon? check.  Is that on the scavenger hunt sheet your teacher gave you?

They decided to eat at a table with a nice view of his enormous hinder (“He’d have HUGE farts!”) which was nice b/c it meant we could watch each and every child come around and shout “HEY, YOU CAN SEE HIS BUTT!”  It reminded me of sitting outside the McDonalds in the square in Heidelberg where the tourist buses unloaded.  American after American emerging and exclaiming “Hey!  You can get BEER in the McDonalds!”  Lunch took forever with the getting up and running over to the butt statue.  Also, the slow eater.  Always annoying to have one child who eats in a civilized manner.  My kids toss it back like field hands and then we’re just left waiting…Shovel it IN kid, you can digest on the go.

He has huge farts.

Look!  Butt!

If I’d realized what an exhausting day lay ahead, I might have let them take their time…I headed us into the fort, with each girl, at some point, zinging off on a tangent. Squirrel, friend spotted, sudden need to GO.  And if not zinging, lagging.  I spent the whole day going “One, two, three, four” in my head trying to make sure I had them all.  About 2 hours in, I decided that there really wasn’t anywhere they could go that wasn’t crawling with people from the school.  Figured that if I lost one, someone else would take her on.  See?  Bad chaperone.

It was all made more difficult by the fact that I was actually interested in the place and wanted to read the signs.  But I spent enough of my own childhood a slave to historical markers that I didn’t hold them up.  As a child who threated to ” just lay down in the road and let a horse run over me” if exposed to another “old house” at Colonial Williamsburg, I have sympathy for those not yet turned on to history.  But I’m old now, and I want to read.  Plus, it’s early 19th Century naval battles and we KNOW how I am about those.  I’m geeking out about the cannon technology and saying “Girls look!  It’s a French 36 pounder!” and they’re saying “We want to pick a bouquet for Miss Amy.”  And then the rolling down the hills.

Few people know that Ft. McHenry was built by hobbits.

Once they’d exhausted the hill rolling possibilities and realized just how much goose poop was on the ground, they zipped off to the barracks area.  They buildings are arranged in a circle and they just went around.  Open a door, go in, allow your eyeballs to skim it, declare that it smells funny, get out.  Next door, repeat.  Extra points if you can get into the next door before the last member of your group gets out of the last one.  Try every handle.  Even if it says “private” or “closed to the public.”  Any that will open, must be opened.  Those that don’t must be met with an “Aw man, it won’t open!” and then move on.  When they came to the one labled “Women” they barged in just like every other door only to discover that it was the bathroom.  I’m only glad Women came before Men.  They got through that whole area in what was surely record time.  I expect there will be a plaque the next time we go back.

They wanted to go back down by the harbor, so off we went.  Then, oh happy day, a locust bean tree.  “hey girls, listen” shikka shikka shikka “It’s a rattle.  Pick up a bunch and it’s like a maraca.” Now THAT they were into.  And once they found the beans inside?  I got to just settle onto a bench while they picked the beans out and sorted them.  yay.  They invented some elaborate game about getting the beans out before the boats reached some point on the way out to the harbor.  That was a nice half hour.

Then we had to go in for the flag ceremony. I figured it would just be lowering the flag over the fort, but no, they got out a huge flag, like the one that Francis Scott Key saw and wrote about, and let the kids unfurl it.  It was pretty cool.

And then it was over, and I could release them back to the teachers.  Who somehow manage to wrangle 24 with more ease than I manage 4.